By Brian C. Mooney, Globe Staff
BEDFORD, N.H. -- Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani usually limits his remarks about foreign policy matters in his basic stump speech, but today he offered a more expansive view of the role of diplomacy in extolling the virtues of America's political and economic systems.
"We've got to have a State Department that ... understands that we've got a reputation that needs to be protected and defended," Giuliani told a group of mostly business leaders at the latest in a series of "Politics and Eggs" breakfasts featuring presidential candidates.
"We have to do a better job of explaining ourselves," Giuliani said. "Maybe sometimes we are too short. Maybe sometimes we are too arrogant ... Sometimes we even assume people understand our wonderful motives ... Sometimes you've got to explain it to them."
Still, he said the United States should not try to force its values on other nations.
"I would change the mission of the State Department," Giuliani said, without directly criticizing the Bush administration. "The main purpose of an ambassador is to sell the United States out of the State Department."
The former New York City mayor said that if elected his approach to foreign policy would be to "Speak softly and carry a big stick," the motto of another New York Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president. .
On domestic matters, Giuliani cited his track record of cutting taxes, crime, and welfare as strong credentials for the presidency. But after about eight months of repeated claims that he cut taxes 23 times while mayor, he acknowledged yesterday the figure for which he can take full credit may be lower.
"The dispute is whether it's 15 or 23," he said, referring to New York watchdog groups' contentions, reported by the Globe and others, that seven cuts were initiated by the state and that the largest tax was scheduled to expire anyway.
"I'm ahead of any Republican candidate for president either 23-to-nothing or 15-to-nothing," he said. "That's almost a Patriots score."